Mrs. Sell's Blog of Household Management

Make your own: cold-brew coffee

I am one of those people who has always liked the scent of coffee more than the flavor. Seriously, how can something that smells so good (especially when freshly ground) taste so much like burned dirt?

So for most of my life, I got my necessary caffeine from soda, with the occasional coffee (during Starbucks holiday season). Eventually, though, I got tired of buying heavy soda bottles and cans and lugging them from the grocery store, then having them take up tons of space on my countertop.

I still needed caffeine, though, so I had to find some way to make coffee work. The main problem was that if I made regular coffee in my little coffee pot, it took way more sugar than I really wanted to ingest every morning just to make it palatable, and even then the bitterness was very unpleasant.

I’d always liked iced coffee, though, and so set about finding out how to make it myself! It turns out that iced coffee is not quite as simple as making a pot of coffee and chilling it. You can certainly do that, but it doesn’t produce that smooth, mild flavor that iced coffee traditionally has, and it still has all the acid that a turns a lot of people away from hot coffee.

I finally found the best method of making iced coffee, using a cold-brew method that I got from several sources. There are many good things about this method: each batch you make will last at least several days, if not longer; the concentrate can be used for iced coffee OR for hot coffee; the result is much less acidic than hot coffee, so you can still drink it if you have a sensitive stomach; and the flavor is so much nicer; it tastes a lot more like coffee grounds smell!

I got my method from The Pioneer Woman, with additional information from Imbibe Magazine and Serious Eats. I use the proportion from Pioneer Woman, but as always with coffee, adjust the strength to your own taste.

What you need:

coffee stuff all

  • coffee (I love Millstone’s Chocolate Velvet and French Vanilla, and I also have a bag of Marshmallow from Target – so good!)
  • a container with a lid to brew and keep your coffee in (I use this wonderful canning bottle from The Container Store. It’s an Italian brand and a little expensive, but I have several of their bottles and jars and they are SO TOUGH: I have dropped these bottles on the floor multiple times and they do not break. But you can use any container you want: a pitcher, a large measuring cup, a bowl, almost anything will work in a pinch.)
  • a funnel (if your coffee container has a small mouth)
  • a kitchen scale (if you want to scale up or down the recipe, this is the easiest way to do it. But I’ll explain other ways in a minute.)
  • a sieve and a coffee filter (or cheesecloth) for straining the coffee
  • another bowl, pitcher, bottle, or other container for straining

What you do:

I use Pioneer Woman’s proportion of 1 pound of coffee (the easiest way to measure: just buy a 1 pound bag!) to 2 gallons of water, except I reduce it to 2 ounces of coffee to 1 quart of water. Normally I just set the bottle and funnel on the scale, zero it out, then pour the coffee straight from the bag until I hit 2 ounces. But this time, I used a little bowl so I could measure the volume of 2 ounces of coffee.

coffee scale bowl

It turns out that 2 ounces is 10 level tablespoons of medium-ground coffee, or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons.

Once I had it measured, I went ahead and poured it into the bottle as I would normally:

coffee pouring

This is what I normally get: 2 ounces of coffee, straight in the bottle:

coffee scale bottle funnel

Then I just fill the bottle with water as high as it will go. I usually end up with something under a quart, just because of the size limitations of the bottle. If I really wanted a full quart of coffee concentrate, I’d have to use a bigger container.

coffee bottle separated

When you first add the water, all the coffee grounds will float, so you want to either put the lid on the bottle and shake it, or use a long spoon to carefully stir it if you’re using some other container. The coffee grounds should all be wet so you get the most flavor out of all of them. The bottle makes it easy:

coffee bottle combined

I lidded it, shook it up, then made a little hillbilly label with the flavor and the time I started it. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the concentrate will be, but it needs to sit for at least 8 hours. (A lot of people start it in the evening to be done the next morning.) I’m probably going to leave this sitting until tomorrow morning, shaking every now and then to make sure all the grounds stay wet.


The coffee has now been brewing at room temperature for about a day. I need coffee, so I’m going to strain it and drink it!

The first thing you do is take your strainer (all by itself, without the coffee filter), and pour the coffee through it into another container. I use my plastic batter bowl, because it is plenty big enough, and it has an easy pour spout.

coffee first pour

It’s nice to have a strainer with handles so it will rest on the sides of the bowl. The majority of the grounds will end up in the strainer, with some of the smaller bits passing through into the coffee.

grounds first pour2

Dump your grounds in the trash or compost, rinse and empty the bottle until there are no more grounds stuck to the inside, and rinse the strainer so grounds don’t go into the final straining of the coffee.

Now it’s time for the last straining!

If the mouth of your storage container is small, place a funnel in the opening, then put the coffee filter in the strainer and set it on top of the funnel. I have to hold mine so the whole thing doesn’t tip over, but occasionally when I don’t mind washing another bowl, I’ll strain it into something wider so the strainer stays up by itself, then just pour it into the bottle when it’s done.

final drain setup

Now slowly and carefully pour the coffee into the filter and strainer, being careful to stop before it overflows. It will take a lot longer than the first straining, so you just have to be patient and wait. Although if you use cheesecloth instead of a coffee filter, I hear it goes much more quickly.

final drain

The coffee trickles down through the filter, strainer, and funnel, and into the jar. Slowly. Once I get close to the end, I start helping it out with a spoon, gently scraping the bottom so the filter doesn’t get clogged.

final grounds

I keep going until it’s not soupy anymore, just wet grounds. The more you get out, the more coffee you end up with. See how much is left after the first strain? Trust me, you don’t want to skip the second step, no matter how long it takes. Unless you like crunchy coffee.

Then toss/compost the filter and remaining grounds, and your coffee is ready for use! I leave the label on so I know what flavor I have going.

final bottle

(The level here is lower than it originally was because I poured out some to drink before I took the picture.)

The great thing about this coffee concentrate is that you don’t have to drink it iced! Yes, you can pour it over ice with milk and sweetener, but you can also dilute it with some boiled water for hot coffee, or heat it with milk for a warm morning drink – my favorite! And it keeps in the fridge for quite a while; if I had room I’d probably make more than a quart at a time. But this way I get to switch up the flavor every ten days or so, so it works out.


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